Although on a macro scale this has been yet another year of pandemic and pain, as I look back on the last twelve months, God’s grace has been apparent in my own life in many ways. Similarly, although this has been a difficult year for the church in China, God’s loving hand is still apparent. Even as there is much to mourn regarding the situation of my Chinese brothers and sisters, there also remains much about which to give thanks and praise to God.
My life has been shaped by what the Lord is doing China. Below, I share just a few ways the faith of Chinese believers has challenged and changed me as we prayed for the gospel to go deeper and wider in 2021.
Drive by Good News, Not Fear
The past twelve months have objectively brought much difficulty and many challenges to house church Christians in China. Still, even in times that are less than ideal for the spread of the gospel, God’s hand is apparent in China. In October, a house church pastor in Shanghai talked about how he faces difficult, daily decisions by focusing on the gospel, not on fear. Another Chinese leader said that persecution is the historic norm in China, and that God has used and is using these circumstances to build his kingdom. Even when the church has no outward clout and is powerless within society, God uses this feebleness to help his people confront and repent of their desires for comfort and power. In seemingly straitened situations, Chinese churches are not only trying to survive: they are focused on the mission presented in Scripture. They are seeking to share the good news of the unshakeable love and joy of Christ with others and building a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
The Voice of the House Church Must Be Heard
This year I was also thankful to witness the house church continuing to grow into maturity of voice, of theology, and assurance that she has a message the modern world needs to hear. The house church has a specific and distinctive experience which has uniquely equipped her to proclaim the gospel in this contemporary age—not only within China, but to the rest of the watching world. Although the circumstances of Christians in different countries varies greatly, our God and our faith are the same. This fall, a Western Christian wrote of how he was personally encouraged by being reminded that we are united in Christ, and can grow from seeing believers in other nations confront their own societal idols.
Chinese Christians also have a special ability to speak into how God walks with and works in believers experiencing suffering. As a pastor’s wife reflected on her family’s most recent persecution, she reminds us all that Christians have no need for anxiety, because God is in control. She also remembered that God lovingly uses difficulty to yield the fruit of the Spirit in his children. This reflection on Psalm 46, written several years ago by a believer who was anticipating his own arrest (which came only hours after writing this), reminds us that we can rest in God, who is our refuge.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
While these lessons might sound self-righteous coming from someone else, when I read them from the lips of these believers who are walking the road of the cross, I am left marveling at God’s faithfulness in walking with his people.
Learning and Growing as a Parent
The last way I was impacted and blessed by Chinese believers this year was quite personal. I was deeply helped and convicted in hearing from Chinese believers about parenting.
Hong Laoshi, a Chinese-American biblical counselor, talked with me in April about why she and her husband live in China. Much of her family’s call to China has grown out of a desire to walk alongside Chinese Christians in the struggles of daily life. She shared how she views parenting as primarily a discipleship relationship. Speaking of the struggles she witnesses in many Chinese parents, she said, “Their desire to be perfect parents is defined by how much they can materially provide for their children, according to what they think their children want. On the other side, they define ‘good and perfect parents’ by how well the children do in front of others. Either way, the focus of parenting is not on children, but on themselves.”
I was also challenged and encouraged watching Chinese believers wrestle with how to raise their children to love and follow Jesus in an environment that opposes faith. Although my children do not face the same level of opposition to faith, the Bible is clear that all believers will face hostility. We must learn to follow Christ and to love others, and teach our children to do the same.
There are many others ways that Chinese Christians have helped me in this past year; this is only a brief sampling. As we look to 2022, I invite you to join me in being renewed and challenged by the experiences of believers in China.
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three young children. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Praise God for how he has continued to build his kingdom in China throughout 2021, and pray for his people to be strong and courageous in the year to come.